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The Royal Family
     

The Royal Family

5.0 2
by William T. Vollmann
 

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Since the publication of his first book in 1987, William T. Vollmann has established himself as one of the most fascinating and unconventional literary figures on the scene today. Named one of the twenty best writers under forty by the New Yorker in 1999, Vollmann received the best reviews of his career for The Royal Family, a searing fictional trip

Overview

Since the publication of his first book in 1987, William T. Vollmann has established himself as one of the most fascinating and unconventional literary figures on the scene today. Named one of the twenty best writers under forty by the New Yorker in 1999, Vollmann received the best reviews of his career for The Royal Family, a searing fictional trip through a San Francisco underworld populated by prostitutes, drug addicts, and urban spiritual seekers. Part biblical allegory and part skewed postmodern crime novel, The Royal Family is a vivid and unforgettable work of fiction by one of today's most daring writers.

Editorial Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle
The Royal Family offers all of the maddening genius his readers have come to expect from the lunatic Vollmann.
Boston Globe
In Royal Family, Vollmann revisits the San Francisco streets and delivers his most harrowing and fully developed work of fiction yet.
Los Angeles Times
William T. Vollmann is a monster, a monster of talent, ambition and accomplishment. With The Royal Family, he has certainly arrived.
San Diego Union Tribune
Vollmann has created a haunting, disturbing and magnificent novel.
New York Newsday
The book is long, harrowing and demanding, but it's worth the effort.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Ambitious in style, in range, and in sheer volume, Vollmann's massive new novel continues the controversial projects of Whores for Gloria and Butterfly Stories, in which the prolific author aims to create a detailed fictional map of a modern-day red-light district and of the people who try to live there. John Tyler is a successful San Francisco lawyer; his brother, Henry, is a dodgy private eye in love with John's Korean wife, Irene. When Irene commits suicide, the siblings' bitterness becomes apparent. A grieving Henry frequents the prostitutes of SF's notorious Tenderloin district; John edges towards marrying his mistress, Celia. A brutal businessman named Brady has hired Henry to track down the "Queen of Whores." Pedophile and police informant Dan Smooth finally leads Henry to the Queen, an African-American woman of indeterminate age and immense psychological insight. Rather than turn her over to Brady, Henry warns her about him. Gradually the Queen helps Henry shed his grief for Irene by leading him down the dark, dank staircase of sexual and social degradation. He learns about masochism, golden showers and other unusual practices--and about love. But the Queen's command of her realm is imperiled: Brady wants to import her Tenderloin prostitutes for his Las Vegas sex emporium. Vollmann is after large-scale social chronicle; he includes characters from nearly every walk of life, and trains his attentions on processes not often seen by the faint of heart: cash flow, blood flow, phone sex, Biblical apocrypha (the Book of Nirgal) and the body odor of crackheads. But this hypperrealistic novelist also aims to present a metaphysics: the two brothers stand for two kinds of human being, the chosen and the outcast. As in all Vollmann's novels, the author's encylopedic ambition sometimes overwhelms the human scale; some supporting characters, though, do stay vivid. Vollmann avoids simply glamorizing the outcasts but remains, deep down, a Blakean romantic: prostitution is for him not only the universal indictment of the human race but also, paradoxically, the only paradise we can actually visit. 5-city author tour. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
John Tyler is a successful San Francisco attorney with a yuppie lifestyle whose brother Henry is a scruffy private investigator. John is married to a Korean woman named Irene; Henry is in love with his brother s wife. When Irene commits suicide, Henry embarks on a mission to track down the Queen of the Prostitutes, the legendary protector of the city s streetwalkers, while John buries himself in legal work for a glitzy Las Vegas nightclub. Very much like Vollmann s earlier collection The Rainbow Stories (LJ 6/15/89), The Royal Family offers an obsessively detailed tour of the sex trade in San Francisco, yet the new book attempts to link the individual vignettes with a fratricidal Cain-and-Abel frame story. Like most of the author s work, this behemoth is a genre-defying mix of neo-noir, K-Mart realism, New Age claptrap, and unabashed editorializing. The New Yorker recently named Vollmann one of the best American writers under 40. But unlike his contemporaries, Vollmann shuns postmodern irony and is really much closer in spirit to the great 19th-century muckrakers. Many readers will find this gritty book highly offensive; others will be won over by the author s passion. Recommended for larger fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/00.] Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Ambitious in style, in range, and in sheer volume, Vollmann's massive new novel continues the controversial projects of Whores for Gloria and Butterfly Stories, in which the prolific author aims to create a detailed fictional map of a modern-day red-light district and of the people who try to live there. John Tyler is a successful San Francisco lawyer; his brother, Henry, is a dodgy private eye in love with John's Korean wife, Irene. When Irene commits suicide, the siblings' bitterness becomes apparent. A grieving Henry frequents the prostitutes of SF's notorious Tenderloin district; John edges towards marrying his mistress, Celia. A brutal businessman named Brady has hired Henry to track down the "Queen of Whores." Pedophile and police informant Dan Smooth finally leads Henry to the Queen, an African-American woman of indeterminate age and immense psychological insight. Rather than turn her over to Brady, Henry warns her about him. Gradually the Queen helps Henry shed his grief for Irene by leading him down the dark, dank staircase of sexual and social degradation. He learns about masochism, golden showers and other unusual practices--and about love. But the Queen's command of her realm is imperiled: Brady wants to import her Tenderloin prostitutes for his Las Vegas sex emporium. Vollmann is after large-scale social chronicle; he includes characters from nearly every walk of life, and trains his attentions on processes not often seen by the faint of heart: cash flow, blood flow, phone sex, Biblical apocrypha (the Book of Nirgal) and the body odor of crackheads. But this hypperrealistic novelist also aims to present a metaphysics: the two brothers stand for two kinds of human being, the chosen and the outcast. As in all Vollmann's novels, the author's encylopedic ambition sometimes overwhelms the human scale; some supporting characters, though, do stay vivid. Vollmann avoids simply glamorizing the outcasts but remains, deep down, a Blakean romantic: prostitution is for him not only the universal indictment of the human race but also, paradoxically, the only paradise we can actually visit. 5-city author tour. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Talk Magazine
...the next American fiction writer to win the Nobel Prize is a kind of detective story set in San Francisco. More than ever Vollmann's real territory is less the street life of his urban carnies than the interior life of our culture.
The New Yorker
[A] singualr literary effort...The Royal Family, with its unforgettable characters is Vollman's most accomplashed work to date.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101221563
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/01/2001
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
800
Sales rank:
1,176,896
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The blonde on the bed said: I charge the same for spectators as for participants, 'cause that's all it takes for them to get off.

*Robbed; gypped.

—Reprinted from The Royal Family by William T. Vollmann by permission of Viking Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by William T. Vollmann. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Meet the Author

William T. Vollmann is the author of eight novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and Rising Up and Rising Down, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction. Vollman's writing has been published in The New Yorker, Harper's, The Paris Review, Esquire, Conjunctions, Granta, and many other magazines. He lives in California.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Sacramento, California
Date of Birth:
July 28, 1959
Place of Birth:
Santa Monica, California
Education:
Attended Deep Springs College and Cornell University

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Royal Family 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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